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4 Things video games can teach us about employee training

I’ve lost count of the number of businesses, especially small and mid-sized ones, that have no idea how to effectively onboard their employees. I’m not talking about recruitment and talent acquisition, mind you. I’m referring to what happens afterward:


Most of us have, at one point or another in our careers, had to suffer through a video. Or leaf through a cumbersome information booklet. Or deal with a cringe-worthy orientation seminar.

In your organization, it doesn’t need to be. It’s actually pretty easy to develop training materials that are not only interesting and engaging but entertaining too. Stuff that your staff will actually retain and enjoy.

For that, you can look to a rather unlikely source for inspiration: video games. These days, they’re more than a means of passing time. They’ve come into their own as a complex entertainment medium, with its own unique rules, benefits, and drawbacks.

And that medium can teach you a lot about how to catch and hold people’s attention.

Start with the fundamentals

Most video games start with a tutorial of some kind, a sort of “learn by doing” guide that walks players through the basics of the game. This information isn’t generally dumped on the player all at once. Instead, they’re walked through one detail at a time — foundational controls, basic game mechanics, and information about the game’s interface.

Your training should be structured in the same fashion. Start off simple by teaching people about the basics of their job. Gradually introduce more complex details as they learn more about their job.

Keep people on track

A good video game gives players a sense of accomplishment, achievement, and progression as they move through it. You can incorporate that idea not just into your training materials, but your organization as a whole. As noted by The Psychology of Games, people respond very positively to a structured system of rewards.

There are a number of reasons for this. They give us concrete goals to strive towards, creating a commitment to those goals and giving a sense of satisfaction when we complete them. They also act as mechanics for guiding our efforts, providing highly satisfactory feedback.

Create quantifiable goals that represent each milestone in your employee onboarding process. These goals can then be adapted into an achievement system of sorts. Just be careful you don’t overdo it. Trying to apply the framework to every facet of your organization could come across as shallow and insincere.

Fun is a powerful motivator

If there’s one thing that every bad training process has in common, it’s boredom. These programs don’t make any effort to be interesting or engaging but instead settle for just regurgitating information at staff and hoping they pick it up by osmosis. Don’t make the same mistake.

Instead, make an effort to make your training fun. You might choose to do that through a trivia model that gives each participant a score based on their performance. You might create a fully interactive game that introduces staff to their roles and responsibilities as they play.

The important thing is that you get creative and put in the effort to make the last stage of your onboarding process more than just a bunch of meaningless data.

Presentation matters more than you think

There are a lot of things that go into making a video game successful — it’s about a lot more than fun gameplay. Presentation is important too. A great soundtrack, a well-written story, aesthetically-pleasing graphics, a strong marketing push… these are all part of what makes a game compelling.

Similarly, a well-designed training program does more than simply gamify the onboarding process. It’s about more than the information. If you want your training to actually be entertaining, you’ll want to do more than create a leaderboard or develop a barebones game.

You need to consider the look and feel of your training platform. You need to consider how it slots into and reflects your company culture. You need to consider how you’re marketing and promoting the program within your organization.

Read more: Taking gamification in training to the next level

In short, you need to view your training program as more than onboarding — you need to view it as an experience in its own right.


A lot of businesses have pretty terrible training programs. Yours doesn’t need to be among them. By looking at how video games introduce players to their fundamentals, and what makes those games engaging in the first place, you can pick up how to make every part of your onboarding process better. This will ensure new employees remember their training fondly rather than not at all.

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